From teachings from Jesus, Paul and Peter to how God instructed the Israelites to remain separate from the other cultures around them, the Bible shows us in many ways that we are not meant to be a part of the world and culture around us.
The Israelites were commanded to completely destroy entire nations and when they failed to do so, they experienced the consequences of it.
Judges 2:1-3The angel of the Lord … said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land I swore to give to your ancestors. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2 and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.’ Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? 3 … they will become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you.’”
By allowing some of the nations to survive, the Israelites were eventually influenced by their false gods and beliefs, leading them to stray from following God and eventually to God temporarily taking the Promised Land away from them and exiling them for 70 years to Babylon. God wasn’t fooling around when He said He wants all of our attention.
1 John 2:15-17Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever”
Worldly things can be just about anything from money and sex to filling a tack room with more equipment than we’ll ever be able to use. All of it is temporary. Instead, John is reminding us that we need to pursue God, who, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, made a way for all of us to be able to repent and be forgiven of our sin so that through belief in Jesus, we could have an eternity in Heaven. Pursuing our own desires based on what the culture around us tells us we need or wants, takes our attention away from God.
One of the main reasons we stay apart from the world is so that our focus is on God.
Psalm 1:1-2Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
In the Psalm, we’re being told the person who follows God and not the non-believers around him is going to be the person who is better off and stresses the daily commitment we’re to put into following God. The Bible is full of teaching that points us toward obedience to God but the selfishness of the world around us can tempt us away from that.
We can be fully engaged in our rodeo sports while not being engaged with those who tempt us to sin. That can be as simple as not going to the bar after a show to as complicated as having to remove some people from our lives because they pull too hard on us to ignore our faith.
It could be one of the hardest instructions from Jesus for a cowboy to accept, when he tells us to turn the other cheek.
I remember being at a rodeo a long time ago as a new Christian and I was just taking in everything that was said around me, especially if it was a bible-based conversation. I don’t remember what the conflict was about but I can still hear the young cowboy’s voice expressing his frustration about having already had to turn the other cheek. “I ain’t got but two,” he said, exasperated that whatever had been done to him, it had gone too far.
Stereotypes sometimes exist for a reason and many of them for rodeo cowboys are there for a reason. It’s typically easier for a cowboy to threaten a pop in the mouth or given one out than it is is to walk away from a fight.
Matthew 5: 38-40 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too”
In what’s known as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers a vast amount of teaching and here in Matthew 5, he digs into the Old Testament.
And eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a common expression that many people no longer even realize comes from Scripture but it was an Old Testament description for what amounts to a legal system meant to stop situations from escalating into feuds. Basically, if I did something reckless to cause you to lose some of your livestock, I would be responsible for replacing the stock that was lost. If I took someone’s life, I would expect to lose mine.
But Jesus takes it a bit further. He isn’t asking us to let everyone walk all over us but he’s urging us not to seek revenge when someone wrongs us.
Just like when we looked at what it means to go the extra mile for someone, which comes later in this set of verses, Jesus is asking us to do more for people who would least likely expect us to treat them differently, or even better, than they have treated us.
If someone keeps hitting on our girlfriend at the bar, instead of waiting to have it out with him in the parking lot after, we simply leave and go somewhere else. That’s a pretty real example of what Jesus is suggesting.
It just goes against how we typically think we should respond to a situation like that. The Bible teaches different ways of handling conflict and many of them open the door to more easily pointing others to Jesus Christ.
It’s really hard to tell someone the good news after we’ve laid them out in the parking lot in the rodeo grounds after reaching what we felt like was the last straw.
Hello, I’m Jesse McCarthy. I competed as a bull rider for 10 years, first in a local state circuit then in the PRCA. Currently I work on a ranch in Southeastern Montana, my boss is a former elder of the church I attend and I am blessed to have the opportunity to build a cattle herd of my own. In October 2021 God blessed me with the opportunity to marry an amazing woman who has a heart for God and His Church.
I grew up in Wisconsin where I was raised going to church and reading the bible on a regular basis. I was baptized at the age of 13 and though I believed in God and that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I didn’t develop a true relationship and start to mature in my faith till I was in my late 20s.
Even though I believed, called myself a Christian, and went to church, I still liked to drink, pursue women in an ungodly way and do the whole rodeo after party scene. One of the events God used to show me how much I needed to trust and obey him with my life happened in my late 20’s. I was praying about getting engaged to the girl I was dating at the time and God spoke to my heart telling me not to do it. Well, not liking His answer I went ahead and got engaged. Three months later the relationship ended. I was hurt by this but what hurt more was knowing that I purposefully disobeyed God. This was a huge turning point in my life and it pushed me to get me back into reading my bible for wisdom and direction so I would be able to discern His guidance and instruction for my life.
By reading the Bible more I realized I needed to be a doer and not just a hearer of the word like it says in James 1:22-25.
With the help of my brother Josh McCarthy and some other fellow Christians I have grown more in my faith, and understanding of what it means to be a doer and to live that out each day.
God has transformed me from a guy who hoped he didn’t reek to much like alcohol at church to someone who has asked to preach on occasion and who shares a devotion and leads the congregation in prayer each week.
I no longer look at women, or relationships from a “how can they please me”, to a “how can I glorify God and best serve my wife” view point.
As I look back over the years, I’m so humbled and grateful that God never turned His back on me, even when I turned mine on Him. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NAS) says “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself. This verse has been proven over and over in my life and I praise God for His grace and mercy.
Though I have grown a lot in my faith and walk with Christ I still do struggle with sin from time to time but now I’m convicted and don’t ignore it anymore or brush it off as “no big deal.” Instead, I take it to the cross and repent of my sins.
Being a Christian is so much more than just being saved by God’s grace. Yes that’s the crucial first step. But just like only putting one ride on a colt and not having it develop into a horse that can be used in everyday work on the ranch. If we don’t continue to grow in our walk with God, we will be missing out on the joy, and peace and plans He has to use us in the every day work of growing His kingdom. As I continue to grow, I’m excited to see how I will be used in the lives of others for God’s glory!
From nativity scenes to Christmas specials, we have the idea that the three wise men, or Magi, were there with the shepherds to see the baby Jesus in the stable.
Scripture tells us something different.
These men, called magi, were likely priests from an eastern culture like Persia, led by what appeared to be a star, to see the king they had heard about.
King Herod, like most, did not fully understand that Jesus was not here to replace his rule, but for a much greater purpose that would pave the way for all to be able to find salvation through his eventual death on a cross. He asked the Magi to report back to him the location of this king, lying about his intent to have the baby killed.
The Magi were warned in a dream to not return to Herod who was left without the location of Jesus.
Instead, what we have is a very grim part of the Christmas story in which Herod then ordered all children two years or younger to be killed.
Matthew 2:16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
Verse 11 told us the ‘wise men’ arrived to see Jesus at a house, not a stable, and in this verse, we see it was as much as two years after Jesus was born.
Those who work in the rodeo and horse industries know how animal rights activists have extremely wrong ideas about the treatment of animals.
Much of their information is passed on from person to person and without digging in to learn from accurate information, they simply believe what they have been told, without question.
The lesson for us in this story about the wise men is the importance of taking our Biblical knowledge directly from scripture.
What we assume we know from what is passed on by others isn’t always true. It’s how most people generally overlook the fact that when we die, we don’t actually ‘get our wings’ or become angels.
Psalm 8:5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
The “them” being referred to in the Psalm is humans, while Genesis 1:25 describes the types of angels God created and 1 Corinthians 6:3 references people judging angels. The distinction is clear that people and angels are never the same.
Following these common misunderstandings about the Bible don’t cause harm to God’s plan for our salvation, but they show us the need to not just rely on what we think we know about the Bible, but to dig in for ourselves to all that God’s word has to offer us.
The Christmas story is a far more beautiful story when we understand it correctly and how it shows us just how much God loves us. We need to understand the story starts with the birth we are celebrating but it leads to Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection so that through faith in who Jesus was and is and by asking to be forgiven of the sins that separate us from God, we can be given an eternal home with him in Heaven–not as angles but as the perfect creation God made us to be.